Wakefield-Marenisco takes high road on prison closing


August 21, 2018

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

SHARING A laugh during Monday's Wakefield-Marenisco Board of Education meeting are, from left, board president Brad Dalbec and superintendent Jason Gustafson.



Wakefield - When the Michigan Department of Corrections announced last week it will close Ojibway Correctional Facility by Dec. 1, it provoked ongoing protest via demonstration, petitions, signs along U.S. 2, and a whole lot of informal ire on the part of local citizens.

No such objection occurred, however, at Monday's regular meeting of the Wakefield-Marenisco Board of Education.

"Despite the bad news on the prison, I'm optimistic," said superintendent Jason Gustafson, who conceded calmly, "Yes, it will have implications on this school."

Nevertheless, Gustafson said it was more important now to focus on what's positive, and throughout the meeting he appeared to model a foot-forward outlook that marketed the school as well grounded for continued success.

For instance, he said the school is fully staffed and new students are expected from Watersmeet, Ewen and Ironwood. The school itself also will start the school year with new exterior lights, new exterior doors, security cameras and other internal upgrades.

In addition, the superintendent said students will benefit from training in Renaissance Star Math, a state-guided plan he said provides support so students "don't slip."

Board president Brad Dalbec briefly noted the economic impact of the prison closure and added of state officials, "I just hope those folks follow the policies they've set forth to close a prison."

In other news, the board heard a presentation from representatives of 4 the Kids, a local initiative aiming to raise funds to install a new gym floor in the community room of the city's municipal building so elementary students can have an additional place to practice sports such as basketball and volleyball.

Peter Koruga, who co-chairs 4 the Kids with Amy Tarro, told the board they already have raised $13,000 toward a bottom-line goal of $17,000. "It's definitely not if this is going to happen, it's when," he said.

He asked the board's permission to use the school track for a bike-a-thon planned as the next fundraiser by 4 the Kids. He added the board also is welcome to provide input regarding a suitable date that won't conflict with school track needs.

Dale White, another 4 the Kids representative, told board members that their own vice president, Micki Sorensen, provided the idea, based on a recent successful bike-a-thon in Marenisco.

Board members voted to allow use of the track, and Dalbec said "as much as they would like to" offer school funds toward the project, they are prohibited from issuing funds to private groups. He did assure, however, that school officials would provide appropriate supervision of students once the gym is ready to use.

The board also:

-As part of a state mandate, voted to reward $200 merit pay for outstanding teaching, to be determined by specific standards including (a) general observation of teachers and (b) student scores.

- Received a personal introduction to several new instructional staff hired for the 2018-19 school year.

-Voted to accept updates in the high school and elementary handbooks.

-Voted to approve the 2018-19 annual contract for head cook Suzette Fetters.

-Voted to support a request from Gogebic Medical Care Facility to allow use of the school's buses, gym and kitchen, at the full expense of GMCF, should evacuation of its residents ever be necessary in an emergency and when school is not in session.

-Learned from Dalbec parking lot lights should be functional by the coming week. He said they have been programmed to turn on in conjunction with city lights, but will be motion-sensitive and will dim when no activity is occurring.

The school calendar includes the following items:

Active shooter training for staff will occur on Aug. 29, after which an open house will be held in the gym from 4:30-7:30 p.m. "Don't panic if you drive by and see a bunch of police cars that day," said Gustafson.

The first day of school is on Sept. 4 with a 10 a.m. start time for students.

The board's next regular meeting will be on Sept. 17 at 5 p.m. in board chambers on the second floor of the Wakefield-Marenisco K-12 School.


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